Characteristic based product configurator
A characteristic based product configurator is a product configurator extension which uses a set of discrete variables, called characteristics (or features), to define all the possible product variations.
There are two characteristic types:
- binary variables, which describe the presence or not of a specific item,
- n-values variables, which describe a selection between n possible values for a specific product item.
Each characteristic-value combination is related to a possible product variation, but it is really meaningful only if it satisfies the technological and commercial constraints between the characteristics. The constraints can represent:
- incompatibility: they indicate the mutual exclusion between some product feature-values;
- implication: they indicate the presence of a specific feature-value is constrained to the presence of another feature-value.
Closed or open configuration
Using a features-based configurator it is possible to define a product variation in two ways:
- Open configuration: the user will simply valuate all the characteristics, complying with the technological and commercial constraints;
- Closed configuration: it starts from a preselected base-preparation (representing a sub-class of product variations) which fixates a subset of characteristics, to which the user will optionally add other information, valuating the (still not fixed) characteristic-values, complying with the technological and commercial constraints. It can be useful to specify that a requested characteristic-value can replace another characteristic-value, incompatible with the requested one, present in the base-preparation.
The Use of characteristics permits to abstract the product representation to describe filter conditions which describe subset of product variations, using boolean functions on the characteristics:
- The AND, NOR, OR logical operator use, simplifies the boolean function definition, because permits to regroup together the characteristic-values which may be present (AND), absent (NOR), not all absent (OR);
- Thanks to the decoupling introduced by the characteristics use, it is not necessay to redefine the boolean functions when there are some new commercial codes introduced which can be mapped to some product-variation already covered by some characteristics combination.
Some applications that can get advantage by using a characteristics based configurator are:
- bill of materials applications: to every part-number is associated a characteristics-filter, which selects the subset of product-variations in which the part-number will be used;
- manufacturing process management system: to each operation is associated a characteristics-filter that will select the subset of product variants where the operation is done
- commercial applications: The ordinability and mandatory requirements of a market are related to characteristic-filters that identify the product variations subset to which they apply.
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